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Book Reviews

Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People

by Douglas Coupland; Graham Roumieu, illus.

Read the title carefully: it is not an exaggeration. Without question, this book is highly inappropriate for young people. For adults who like their reading material on the weird and twisted side, however, it should do the trick.

Iconic author Douglas Coupland’s wild imagination combines with cult favourite Graham Roumieu’s cartoon-style sketches in this collection of seven warped fairy tales featuring a cast of darkly funny and extremely absurd characters. From Donald, the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box (who gains sick pleasure watching other juice boxes get squished by cars), to Kevin, the Hobo Minivan with Extremely Low Morals (who steals money and electronic devices from the kids he lures into his interior, then uses the spoils to buy vodka from the local liquor store), these figures are storybook stars gone horribly wrong.

The stories are filled with genuine laugh-out-loud moments, usually resulting from the ridiculously deadpan dialogue. In “Sandra, the Truly Dreadful Babysitter,” for example, the titular character bullies her charges into shoplifting and setting things on fire, and abandons one little girl in a cemetery at night. Following the cemetery incident, Sandra tells her crush about her recent babysitting assignments: “I love babysitting, Todd, but it can be really difficult when you have children who just won’t behave.” The straight-faced delivery of these brutally honest and sardonic lines makes the story so deliciously wrong and leaves readers with a mordant smile.

While the collection is very clearly a product of Coupland’s strange and unique mind, Roumieu’s illustrations are excellent complements to the stories. One of the most disturbing yet brilliant series of drawings accompanies the story of Cindy, the Terrible Role Model, a Barbie-like doll who goes off the deep end and murders her child owner after the young girl chops off the doll’s ponytail. These sketches are just as darkly funny as the story itself.